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Friday, September 24, 1999 Published at 21:45 GMT 22:45 UK


World: Asia-Pacific

Deadlock over Timor probe

Bishop Belo: Don't forsake people of East Timor

Asian and Western nations have failed to reach agreement on whether to launch an international investigation into atrocities committed in East Timor.

A special session of the UN Commission on Human Rights has been adjourned until Monday after two days of heated debate.

East Timor
Indonesia, backed by Asian and some Latin American and Muslim countries, is opposed to the international inquiry called for by the European Union.

During the special session, East Timorese resistance leader Jose Ramos-Horta urged the commission to act after comparing his people's fate to that of the Jews during the Holocaust.


The BBC's Claire Doole: ''The row underlines differences between developed and developing countries''
The EU insists that any investigation should be internationally-led.

But Indonesia says this would increase tensions and make reconciliation more difficult. It wants a national fact-finding mission with foreign observers.

In a sign of potential compromise, the EU announced late on Friday that it had modified its proposal.

It is now suggesting an international inquiry which would include Asian experts and would co-operate with Indonesia's own internal investigation.

But human rights groups are critical, saying that no East Timorese could testify freely under such conditions.

Condemnation

Earlier, Mr Ramos-Horta and Bishop Carlos Belo, who shared the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize, made impassioned pleas in favour of a UN inquiry into atrocities committed by pro-Indonesian militias.

Similar commissions led to the establishment of UN war crimes tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.


[ image: Bishop Belo in Portugal, praying for peace]
Bishop Belo in Portugal, praying for peace
Bishop Belo called on the world not to forsake the people of East Timor.

Mr Ramos-Horta told the 53-nation human rights body it would be "an accomplice to impunity, an accomplice to genocide and war crimes" if it failed to act.

"My sentiments to the Republic of Indonesia are the same as the Jews towards Nazi Germany and the Kuwaitis toward Iraq," he added.

Jakarta's opposition to an international investigation is strongly backed by other Asian states, including China, Japan and India.

They argue that Indonesia has done enough by agreeing to last month's referendum and to UN peacekeeping forces.

Our correspondent says their view is increasingly shared by Latin American and Arab states.





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